← back to the blog

How Motherhood Can Hurt Your Self-Worth

Posted in Motherhood, Parenting on Wed Feb 24 2021

It's the most humbling and incredible gift a woman can hope to experience. But what happens when your new vocation as a mother causes a detrimental effect on your confidence and feelings of self-worth? It's something that occurs gradually, something which you don't notice until your child's wonder years are gone. Blink, and you'll miss them. 

Earning an Income After "Maternity Leave"
Suddenly, you're faced with an opportunity to put yourself "back out there" as an employee, or you have the chance to finally launch that business you've always dreamed of.

Except, you're frozen in fear. You can't do it. Imposter syndrome hits, and you feel that you have no right. Who do you think you are? You've been out of the workplace for too long. You quit your career to bring up kids. Your skills are old hat; you're past it. There's a misconception that being a stay-at-home mum is an "easy" choice. Ladies of leisure. Ladies who lunch (this really, really annoys me, by the way). 

You'll be overlooked in job applications because of a gap in your CV. Or, you'll try your hand at freelancing, signing up to all of the job sites. You'll apply for job, after job, after job, only to be knocked back again, and again, and again. Or, WORSE; be totally ignored without so much as an acknowledgement of your application. 

Your Confidence Takes Another Hit
Rejection hurts. Whether it's in response to a book proposal, a job application, or a pitch for your services, each little rejection knocks you back, time and time again. And a little voice in your head begins to tell you you're not worthy. It's not those exact words necessarily, but that's the underlying message that you hear each time you're shunned, overlooked, or just plain ignored. 

Now, it's a distinct lack of confidence that's holding you back from achieving anything. What's the point? You'll only get rejected again, right? In reality, it's a story that's stuck on repeat, and it's time for you to create a new one. 

Why is Your Self-Worth so Low? 
I'm of the opinion that it starts when we choose to have children. While things have certainly improved over the years when it comes to parental leave, there's still a kind of stigma attached to having children, and it can inevitably affect your career. When I went back to work after maternity leave in 2012, I really struggled working full-time with a baby waking 4-5 times a night. My husband worked night shifts too, so I was doing it on my own and it was making me physically and mentally ill.

In addition to that, my position had been made redundant and my department dissolved while I was gone. As there are strict rules around redundancy and maternity leave, I was placed in another role within the company. But after a 5-month struggle, I had no choice but to quit. 

I wanted to continue working, but I couldn’t cope with it full-time. So requested an opportunity to go part time, but it was refused. Apparently, it didn't "fit with the needs of the business". Another mum had a similar experience as discussed in this article, highlighting the importance of flexible working for women.

Regardless of whether or not this fit with "the needs of the business" (despite 4.5 years of loyal service), the message was categorically clear: I was dispensable and no longer of value. My needs as an employee were irrelevant. While you're technically an asset as an employee, you're also just a number. And that was the start of a long line of rejections in my new found life as a parent, all because I never felt like I was good enough. 

Validation Needs to Come From Within
With rejection comes the desperate need to be accepted. Somehow, we believe that being employed gives us that validation. It fulfils that basic psychological need of belonging, of being worthy to "join the tribe". No more ostracisation.

But I'm guessing you want MORE for yourself and your family. If you chose your children over your employment career, you KNOW that there's more to life than being stuck in a cubicle day in, day out. Despite the knock backs, you crave a life that enables you to give more to your kids. To be there for them as well as support your family financially.

Of course, the lack of confidence and self-worth is a problem. But here's the thing; there's only one thing that's stopping you, and that's YOU. If you know exactly what it is that you want to do with your life in order to be able to earn money from it, then you need to go out there and do it. 

Begin Your Progress Now
It's all too easy to be always searching for the answer, for the latest "get rich quick" scheme. If you had money, everything would be great, right? If you had money, all of your problems would be solved. But the thing is, there's a difference between having money and EARNING money. 

Earning your own money as an independent woman after bringing up children is the most empowering, confidence-boosting accomplishment, because it reminds you of who you intrinsically are. 

Yet, if you have problems with self-worth, have no idea what to charge, or struggle to ask people for money, it understandably makes it difficult. 

How Can You Overcome Your Fear of Earning Money?
There's no secret to it. No magic formula. Ultimately, you just need to START. Ironically, lack of confidence is an action-killer. And yet, action breeds confidence. By starting, you begin to realise that you can actually do this. Then (to contradict my earlier sentence) something magical happens. By taking action, consistently, you begin to make progress. You begin to create something, and see your ideas come together. 

The undertaking of persistent action takes shape as you noticeably weave something beautiful. 

But the moment you resist, the moment you fail to show up? That's when all your hard work has been for nothing. It's like compound interest: Growth occurs on existing growth, but like cultivating plant life, can die with too much neglect. 

The easiest way you can earn money on your terms is with consistency and persistence. Yes, you will have doubts. Yes, you will face imposter syndrome. But what you can do is keep going, because you can't reject yourself. Rebuild your self-worth — and show the world what you can do. 

Fiona Chapman is a writer and the founder of Financially Independent Me - a website dedicated to helping women control their money, boost self-worth and find wealth, success and happiness beyond parenting.  

Find and follow Fiona here @fi.me1